PHIL 3350 Philosophy of Art
The Basic Structure of a Philosophy Paper
A philosophy paper is no great work of literature, and does not need to read with the facility or
elegance of prose characteristic of literary works or essays written in a primarily rhetorical
discipline, such as English. The point of a philosophy paper is to answer as clearly and precisely
as possible a series of very basic questions, the ultimate goal of which is to demonstrate beyond a
reasonable doubt either the truth (a philosophically strong argument) or the reasonability (a
philosophically weak argument) of a given position. For those of you who have written
philosophically before and succeeded, please continue to do whatever you were doing before?
and forget this handout. For those of you who are wondering just what you ought to be doing
when writing this paper, however, you might wish to follow some version of the following basic
outline. Please keep in mind that all of your work needs to be original work, for numerous good
academic, philosophical, and moral reasons.
1. What are you saying in this paper? Try to answer this question as quickly, as directly,
and as simply as possible. Ex.: ?In this paper, I intend to show that Zeno adds nothing
essential to the arguments of Parmenides.?
2. Why do you believe what you are saying? How are you going to prove it to your
reader? The answer to this question is going to have multiple parts. Ex.: ?Zeno?s
argument can be restated in four basic points: w, x, y, and z. In order to demonstrate how
Zeno is merely derivative of Parmenides, I will show how each of these four points is
already present in the fragments of Parmenides.?
3. What is point w (from 2, above)? Why do you believe it to be true? Here, you need
to demonstrate the truth or reasonability of the first point in the list of reasons from 2,
above. You will have to make clear to your reader what in the text(s) you are considering
leads you to believe in the truth of this point. Ex.: ?We see the first essential point of
Zeno?s philosophy in Aristotle?s summary of the Paradox of the Flying Arrow, where he
writes, [?Quotation from the text.?] Yet this point was already made by Parmenides. We
can see this in the fragments, when Parmenides writes, [?Quotation from the text.?]?
Third to Fifth Paragraphs
4. Repetitions of the Second Paragraph, specific to each of the remaining points enumerated
in your introduction (x, y, and z).
5. How did the Second to Fifth Paragraphs defend the truth or reasonability of the
position you asserted in the First Paragraph? Here, you do not need to restate
everything you?ve already written. Nor do you need to summarize your introduction.
Nevertheless, you should remind your reader what it is that you were trying to prove with
the paper as a whole, and why you think you?ve proven it. Ex.: ?As we have seen, the
philosophy of Zeno of Elea is essentially a repetition of that of his teacher, Parmenides.
Zeno?s basic points?that w, x, y, and z?are already present in the writings of
Parmenides. Although it is going too far to believe that Zeno merely parrots Parmenides,
he nevertheless offers us nothing fundamentally new.?
PHIL 3350 Philosophy of Art
You will be asked to write six Art Analyses over the course of the semester, the lowest grade of which
will be dropped. For our purposes, an Art Analysis is a short paper that examines a single work of art
from the perspective of one of the philosophers of art we will read in the class. We are reading six
philosophers in this course, and you will be asked to write one paper analyzing a work of art from the
perspectives of each of those authors.
When writing your Analyses, you should keep in mind that the goal is typically not to guess whether the
philosopher in question would have liked the work of art you?re analyzing. Rather than beginning your
Analysis from the work of art itself (?now that I?ve seen this play, what would Nietzsche say about it??),
you should consider beginning your thinking about the work by thinking about the philosophical
perspective from which you will be conducting the Analysis. What, according to this thinker, are the
crucial concepts, terms, traits, elements, ideas, practices, etc. when it comes to works of art and/or
aesthetic phenomena? Benjamin and Heidegger have very different vocabularies for discussing art, but
they also conceive of art in very different ways. They might not be able to agree on which phenomena are
works of art and which are ?mere things.? Starting with the work of art might prejudice your Analysis
against the possibility that the thinker in question would not recognize that work of art as a work of art.
Starting with the philosophical perspective, on the other hand, might open you to seeing works of art in
ways you had never previously considered.
Thus, in short, instead of going to the museum to observe a painting for your Kant Art Analysis, I
recommend wandering through the museum with Kant on your mind, and letting the works that seem
especially interesting from a Kantian perspective ?jump out at you.? This probably means observing a
great deal more art than you will actually write about in your papers. But that?s not such a terrible thing.
The tentative due dates for these papers are as follows:
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment: September 16
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy: September 30
Martin Heidegger, ?The Origin of the Work of Art?: October 14
Walter Benjamin, ?The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction?: October 28
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, three essays on painting: November 11
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: December 2
The guidelines for selecting works of art to be analyzed are on the second page of this handout.
The fine print: Each Art Analysis should be 2-3 double-spaced, typewritten pages. Analyses should be
submitted electronically (as either a Word [.doc or .docx] or PDF [.pdf] file) via Blackboard. Each paper
should be in an 11- or 12-point font, with reasonable margins. You must quote from the texts in
question to substantiate your claims about each thinker?s point of view; papers lacking direct
quotations from the relevant text will receive a grade of F for the paper. Plagiarism of even a very
minor sort will result in a grade of F for the paper; multiple instances of plagiarism will result in an F for
the course. Late Art Analyses will not be accepted unless arrangements for an extension have been made
with me in advance.
1. You may not use the same philosopher twice.
Only one paper per philosopher, please.
2. You may not write a seventh (or eighth, or ?) Art Analysis for extra credit or to make up a
You get one shot at each paper. That?s it.
3. No Art Analysis may analyze more than a single work of art.
Thus, you may analyze a painting, but not a painter?s entire corpus; a poem, but not a book of poetry;
and so on. At the same time, however, there is sometimes some ambiguity in what constitutes an
independent work, and I am willing to grant you some leeway here: you may consider a single aria a
work, or the opera in which that aria appears; one film in a trilogy could serve as a work, but one might
consider the three movies taken together as one work of art, as well; etc. That said, you may not use two
arias from the same opera for two different Analyses or two movies from the same trilogy; likewise, you
may not use an aria and the opera in which it appears for two different Analyses, a film and the trilogy of
which it is a part, etc.
4. Each work of art you analyze must be one you have had the opportunity to observe ?in person?
and during the Fall 2016 semester.
In the cases of works of painting, sculpture, photography, design, architecture, collage, video installation,
etc.?the so-called ?plastic arts??you need to have observed the object itself; not an image, not a print.
(In the case of sculpture, as sculptors often make multiple copies of the ?same? work, so long as the
object you observe was sculpted by the artist to whom credit is given?and not manufactured in a factory
of some sort?I will allow it.) In the cases of works of theater, music, opera, performance art, or dance,
you need to have attended the performance yourself?recordings will not suffice. In the cases of works of
literature, poetry, or film, you must have read/viewed the work yourself, but do not need to have seen the
work in a cinema or read an original manuscript or first edition publication. In all other cases, if there is
any doubt, consult with me.
5. You may analyze a maximum of two works from any given genre or medium of art.
You may write two Art Analyses about paintings, but no more than two; two about operas, but no more
than two; etc. I?m hoping you expose yourself to a wide variety of art forms.
6. At least one Art Analysis must deal with a work of art observed on the UHD campus (the O?Kane
Gallery and O?Kane Theater are two great resources, but there are others).
I will try to announce on-campus arts events/installations/shows as they come out.
7. At least one Art Analysis must deal with a work of art created before the year 1700.
For historical perspective.
8. At least one Art Analysis must deal with a work of art created after the year 2000.
So as not to get stuck in the past.
9. No more than one Art Analysis can deal with a work of art created by someone you know
personally (this includes yourself).
I know your friends are totally cutting edge. But other artists are cool, too, I assure you.